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Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Russia

A Gogol Recipe for
the Ideal President

By Fyodor Lukyanov

As we can see, the American political menu is diverse (although the mainstream doesn’t include candidates from smaller parties, from which you could find anything you like) and it allows us to produce anything, even the “dream president” for Russians.

Translated By Sierra Perez-Sparks

7 November 2012

Edited by Audrey Agot

Russia - Rossiiskaya Gazeta - Original Article (Russian)

Presidential elections in the U.S. are always tense and captivating events. No matter who participates or wins, viewers all over the world are guaranteed a quality show. American voters are in a privileged position because they are invited to participate. That is to say, they can affect the outcome of the duel, while everyone else has to be satisfied with watching. This last part isn’t totally fair, considering that the general situation of the rest of the world significantly depends on U.S. politics. But citizens of other countries are left to only daydream about the U.S. president who would be best for them. Russia is no exception, and during recent weeks there have been discussions about how a Barack Obama or Mitt Romney victory will turn out for us. Opinions differ, but it is understood that there is no ideal candidate, and each has his pros and cons.

What if we were to try to imagine such a “Russian’s ideal American president,” anyway? It’s possible to construct him out of parts that already exist. Agafya Tikhonovna utilized this technique in Gogol’s “Marriage”: “If he could have Nikanor Ivanovich's lips with Ivan Kuzmich's nose, and yes, take a bit of Balthazar Balthazarych’s swagger, and please, add to it all Ivan Pavlovich’s burliness …”

It probably makes sense to take Barack Obama as the foundation of design. He is a modern man who understands how much the 21st century has changed. He’s not dogmatic and he is willing to be flexible. He’s not as ideological or, accordingly, as aggressive in promoting his values as are many American politicians. True, being aware of a new reality is not the same thing as being able to suggest new policies and, consequently, make them happen. And here, it seems, there is something to borrow from Mitt Romney.

If we forget about his meddlesome allegations that Russia is the enemy (remember: we now possess the magical ability to extract only those components that we need), then Romney is a man of a practical nature, who, thanks to his prosperous business experience, is able to effectively achieve this goal. He is a business-minded pragmatist. After all, whatever Romney thought of Russia, his portfolio until recently contained Gazprom and Yandex shares, and his son Matt was recently [in Russia] looking for possible partners.

The combination of Obama’s open-mindedness and Romney’s action-oriented expertise already gives a pretty good result, but we can also include the candidates from the primaries. There weren’t any democrats willing to challenge the president this time, but on the other hand there was an earnest battle within the Republican ranks. Of course, if the U.S. president were elected in Russia, Ron Paul probably would have been elected. The 77-year-old congressman from Texas stands for curtailing American military presence around the world, exiting NATO, and ending expansionist foreign policies. He thinks that America has no business in most countries, and should only be concerned with itself, restoring the ideals of a free economy and small government. Our compatriots probably wouldn’t agree with him regarding the size of government when it comes to Russia, but the condemnation of the federal government’s tyranny would undoubtedly reverberate among us.

There is one more eye-catching candidate: Rick Santorum, who can give our ideal homunculus the commitment to sharply conservative moral values—the uncompromising rejection of homosexuality and suspicion of the idea of equal rights. At least certain circles in Russia have begun recently to value all of this. For those who find morals tedious, it is worth adding a modicum of ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich—an ardent conservative, but one with a few divorces and a line of adultery behind him. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who really knows about the oil industry and is solidly connected to it, would have found a common language with the country that presently has the largest oil company in the world.

As we can see, the American political menu is diverse (although the mainstream doesn’t include candidates from smaller parties, from which you could find anything you like) and it allows us to produce anything, even the “dream president” for Russians. More seriously, the 2012 campaign has shown that America, like all prominent countries, stands at a crossroads, where there are only old recipes that no longer work, and there is a tentative search for something. So far the search isn’t very productive. The next four years will be a continuation of the transition period, during which it will be more and more obvious that we “can’t live like this,” while the way to live is still unclear. In this sense, the 2016 elections will be even more important because they will record a clearer direction.

In general, it’s a good thing that it isn’t up to us to elect the president of the United States. As Agafya Tikhonovna correctly perceived, “My goodness, choosing is so difficult! If there were only another one, two or four. Just pick as you like…Even my head is started to hurt.” Thank god there are still countries where it’s not so complicated.



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